I live in industrial east Oakland on the fringe of Fruitvale. It is one of the roughest neighborhoods in the entire Bay Area. I moved here, like a lot of artists, because rents are unaffordable in San Francisco. At first I wasn’t too thrilled about it. There’s a lot of trash, pollution, prostitutes, crime. The regular homeless junkies with their carts and buggies are my neighbors, some of whom I know by name.
This wall is across the street from my studio window. A year ago someone was shot and killed in front of it. The graffiti changes constantly. Within a week after management or government paints over the graffiti, the tags are back.
Expression can not and will not be suppressed. Below is the same wall last month.
In spite of the danger, and the downsides of living in an extreme urban environment, I like my 1300 sq. ft. interior live / work loft. I’ve settled in over the past year and I’m finally ready to embrace the exterior environment – at least on a visual level. It is what it is, and while I’m here I might as well explore it. I’m going to start posting more pictures of the things I see every day in my neighborhood.
I recently met painter and muralist, Jill McLennan, through a mutual friend. Jill lives in Jingletown, a slightly more developed artist loft community about ten blocks down the street from me. Most of Jill’s paintings and public murals depict and are a part of east Oakland. They are so colorful, bright, and hopeful… without hiding the blight… although there is a lot of visible litter and dumping…
Even so, I was looking at her paintings and wondering about how fantastic they seem. Most people brave enough to drive through this hood would probably see the blight and decay, before the color, wild growth, and unbounded expression. Many of the artists who live here see it differently. Please view more of Jill’s urban landscapes on her website.
I can tell that the visual influence of east Oakland is already impacting my color sense, as well as the energy tone, and the forms of my quilt patterns. What do you think?
Does your exterior environment affect your work? How so… I would really like to know.